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The British F tuba

Postby Andrew » Thu Aug 26, 2010 2:35 pm

I am undertaking a long research project into the British F tuba, its players and its sudden demise in the early 1970s. I'd welcome any contributions. Please contact me at principal@oxfordschoolofmusic.org.uk" target="_blank

There is much confusion over the two MAIN types of F tuba found in British orchestras up to 1970s. All were made to the traditional British pattern of tuba with a RH bell, 3 RH top pistons and 1 or 2 LH side pistons. All were made to special order, were always few in number and were handed down from player to player

1) The first type used the compensating system designed by David James Blaikley in 1874. F tubas of this type were made by Boosey and Boosey & Hawkes after a company merger in 1930 and were usually given the Besson badge after 1948. This type of F tuba was the most common type to be found and differed considerably in size over the years. A c1933 example is here (scroll down): http://www.tubanews.com/index.php?optio ... &Itemid=86" target="_blank

2) The second type was initiated by the virtuoso tuba player Harry Barlow who was active till his death in 1932. He was a founder member of the London Symphony Orchestra in 1904 and the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 1930. 15 of these 'Barlow' tubas were made to his specification by Besson. They were 5-valve NON-compensating instruments. A c1931 example is here: http://www.music.ed.ac.uk/euchmi/ucj/ucjg4048qfr_s.jpg" target="_blank

An additional type was the much more recent Besson Sovereign F tuba which was built on the LH bell, front-valve, German/USA pattern

Almost all British symphonic tuba players played one of these two main types of F tuba until the arrival on the scene of John Fletcher in 1964 who always played (and improved) the B&H/Besson EEb 4-valve compensating tuba as his bass instrument and a number of CC tubas as his contrabass instrument
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Re: The British F tuba

Postby imperialbari » Fri Aug 27, 2010 12:01 am

Mine has #91537 on the second valve casing and #117426 on the bell.

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Re: The British F tuba

Postby k001k47 » Sat Aug 28, 2010 1:36 am

It'd be cool to get a thread of British styled F tubas going. I've always wanted to own one of those 3+1 Besson Fs.
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Re: The British F tuba

Postby Highams » Sat Aug 28, 2010 11:21 am

The Knellar Hall museum has one and I'm sure would give you details/numbers etc. I saw it only a few weeks ago, v.nice condition.

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Re: The British F tuba

Postby Neptune » Sat Aug 28, 2010 3:17 pm

There is a nice F tuba in the Horniman museum in London. Picture below (F on the left with Imperial Eb on right). I was surprised how large was the F having tried one of the smaller ones previously
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Re: The British F tuba

Postby Ace » Sat Aug 28, 2010 5:18 pm

Here's the use of the F tuba used in the old radio show referenced in Neptune's post above.

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Re: The British F tuba

Postby imperialbari » Sat Aug 28, 2010 7:59 pm

Image

The F tuba to the left appears to be of the Barlow 3+2P non-compensating type. The 3rd valve loop looks short, but the Brits like a hand-rest behind their 3 top valves. In some euphoniums and BBb basses it is a fake tube not being part of the acoustical tubing. In some F and Eb basses it is the inner top bow. Here it is a part of the 3rd loop wrapping.

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Re: The British F tuba

Postby Andrew » Sat Aug 28, 2010 10:03 pm

Thanks everyone for the replies and pics. In 2 weeks time I am planning to play this c1931 Besson 'Barlow' F, serial number 124581, as seen in the Horniman Museum, London. It's on loan there from Edinburgh University's Collection of Historical Musical Instruments. Their list of tubas is here http://www.music.ed.ac.uk/euchmi/ubl/ublh10.html" target="_blank

I've found these film clips of John 'Tug' Wilson playing a Besson 'Barlow' F in the Philharmonia Orchestra. It may well be the same instrument as currently displayed in the Horniman. Tug retired in 1965 and Vic Saywell may have acquired it. Certainly Vic had already got a Besson 4-valve F compensator which looked new when I met him in 1963

1) Verdi Requiem - 1964 - http://www.youtube.com/watch#!v=D4M6VAY ... re=related" target="_blank - close-up from 2:45
2) Mussorgsky - Great Gate of Kiev - 1961 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJfR5DY- ... re=related" target="_blank - close-up from 3:58
3) Mussorgsky - Bydlo - 1961 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9Ze4v3T ... re=related" target="_blank - close-up from 01:48

Also here's a complete 1959 audio recording of Tug Wilson playing in Frank D minor Symphony - playing which John Fletcher greatly admire and often referred to as the essence of what the British F tuba was capable of in the hands of a great player: concentrated, pungent and distinctive

4) Ist movt http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qu8qoDpFkVs" target="_blank (no tuba in 2nd movt)
5) 3rd movt http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYqOfdFtUwQ" target="_blank

Keep the replies coming!

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principal@oxfordschoolofmusic.org.uk" target="_blank
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Re: The British F tuba

Postby Chuck Jackson » Sat Aug 28, 2010 10:24 pm

Mussorgsky - Bydlo - 1961 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9Ze4v3T ... re=related" target="_blank - close-up from 01:48

The Euphonium player looks just like John Fletcher!!!!

I have long admired the tuba playing on all the Philharmonia recordings w/Klemperer, actually I find it to be consistently the BEST playing on recordings ever done up along with Joe Novotny and Pre-Hirsbrunner Chester Schmitz. It is nice to be able to put a name to that fine playing, and to be a bit more than a little amazed that that massive sound came out of an instrument of such modest proportions(Klempy's Bruckner 4 is an astounding reading of that score, none better in my opinion). I guess size doesn't matter after all. Thank you!!!!

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Re: The British F tuba

Postby imperialbari » Sat Aug 28, 2010 11:07 pm

That Klemperer link didn’t work for me.

Would a couple of Klemperer stories be allowed?

George Szell conducted Debussy’s La Mer. Klemperer was in the audience. Afterwards somebody asked what he thought about that performance of La Mer:

La Mer? It was rather Zell am See?

Klemperer stayed with the Philharmonia until very old and did a lot of recordings with them. They accepted his tendency to fall asleep in his seat. The orchestra always continued playing the actual take. Once Klemperer fell asleep shortly into a symphony movement, and the leader in a kind way woke him up saying:

Maestro, we finished the movement.

Klemperer: Was it good?

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Re: The British F tuba

Postby Andrew » Sat Aug 28, 2010 11:37 pm

Ha ha re Klemperer!

Chuck, you'd also be surprised then that Tug Wilson always played on a really small mouthpiece (of his own making)! His thinking was remarkably 'Jacobesque' - a big sound originates in the imagination not in the instrument

However a practical reason British players up to the 1970s made such a big sound on their F tubas is because they had almost all been service-band/brass-band euphoniumists. To a euphoniumist an F tuba is a 'big' instrument! There were no specialist tuba teachers at post-school level until the mid-60s when John Fletcher was appointed tuba professor at the Royal Academy of Music and even John came to the tuba from the French Horn. Tug Wilson had been a career euphonium soloist in the RAF Central Band for many years before he first became a professional orchestral tuba player in 1946 (London Philharmonic Orchestra) and if you think his playing is impressive with the Philharmonia you should try and hear the Boult recordings of the 1946-58 period with the LPO and Tug on F tuba (particularly the complete recordings of Vaughan Williams Symphonies of the 1950s)

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Re: The British F tuba

Postby Andrew » Sat Aug 28, 2010 11:39 pm

The euph player in that Philharmonia film clip was a young Ray Premu
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